Saturday, September 24, 2016
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Since 2013, No Complaints of Biased Policing Have Been Sustained by LAPD

September 16th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission passed a motion calling for an in-depth look at how the LAPD deals with bias complaints from citizens. Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill introduced the motion after an Internal Affairs Quarterly Report revealed that, once again, the department has not upheld any complaints of biased policing, which includes a racial, gender, disability, anti-LGBTQ, and other forms of discrimination.

According to the latest IA report, there were 209 reports of biased policing in the first half of 2016, none of which were sustained. In fact, none of the more than 1,500 citizen complaints of bias since 2013 have been upheld by the department.

The motion directs department officials to compare the LAPD’s results and complaint-handling processes with those of police departments in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Baltimore. Department officials will collect information on how each department defines biased policing or racial profiling, the number of complaints against officers and how many of those complaints were upheld, as well as how many sworn each department has and the demographics of the cities they police.

Officials are to report back to the commission at a community meeting to be held on November 1.

“My goal here is to get us beyond the limitations, which seem obvious, of relying on a single metric, that is to say just the numbers captured” by the quarterly IA reports, McClain-Hill said.

The motion also seeks information on how the LAPD identifies bias in potential officers during the recruitment process, and what kind—and how many hours—of training recruits in the academy receive regarding biased policing and implicit bias. McClain-Hill also requests a status update on implicit bias training provided to active officers.

While McClain Hill said she hopes for “real and meaningful dialogue to serve as the basis for real and meaningful policymaking, she also stressed that the focus on bias does not imply that officers are showing up to work “for any reason other than to do the very best they can protecting this city.”

Posted in LAPD, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

A Police Commission Nominee…and Prison Strikes

September 13th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Shane Murphy Goldsmith to replace outgoing Kathleen Kim on the LA Police Commission.

Goldsmith is a member of the LA Homeless Services Authority Board of Commissioners, the President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation, and co-chair of the California Executive Alliance for Boys and Men of Color in Southern California.

Before Goldsmith started working at Liberty Hill, she worked under (then) City Council President Eric Garcetti, as a senior advisor, and focused on housing, public safety, the budget, and LGBTQ issues. Goldsmith also served as the executive director of an affordable housing development group called PATH Ventures.

Goldsmith has “a well-earned reputation for fair-mindedness, and a deep sense of compassion that informs everything she does,” Mayor Garcetti said. “She is a thoughtful leader who has worked closely with the officers who serve L.A.’s neighborhoods, and who truly understands the urgency of conversations about the future of law enforcement, how and when deadly force should be used, and strengthening trust between the LAPD and communities of color.”

Kim, who is stepping down after serving on the commission for three years, is a law professor and expert on immigration and human trafficking.

Garcetti praised Kim for “fighting to protect and improve the LAPD’s relationship with L.A.’s immigrant communities, and playing a key role in developing the Department’s homelessness policy.”

The LA City Council still has to officially confirm Goldsmith to the commission.


On Friday, the 45th anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison riot in New York, inmate workers launched a nationwide labor strike.

Prisoners across the US are conducting a coordinated protest against conditions inside America’s prisons, including forced prison labor that either doesn’t pay inmates anything at all, or pays them pennies per hour.

The strike was largely organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a prisoner-led human rights group, which designated Friday, September 9, as a National Day of Solidarity to End Prison Slavery. All inmates at Holman Prison, FAM’s main hub, peacefully declined to show up to their prison jobs Friday, leaving officers to take on the work.

“To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement,” the FAM leaders write.

Inmates are reportedly striking in 40 correctional facilities in 24 states including California. The strikers are joined by people protesting and rallying in cities nationwide including Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Writing for Vice and the Influence, formerly incarcerated writer Jeremy Galloway has more on the ongoing strikes. Here’s a clip:

Prior to the official strike kickoff, inmates at Holmes Correctional Institution, in the Florida panhandle, led an uprising that forced the facility to be shut down. More than 400 inmates participated in that rebellion, which the prison administration has linked to the national strikes.

As the list of facilities involved expands, the South continues to lead the way. Prisoners in multiple Alabama prisons, at least two other Florida prisons, Fluvanna women’s prison in Virginia, and prisoners in North Carolina and South Carolina all reportedly engaged in various forms of resistance. Most Georgia prisoners don’t work on Fridays, but some on-the-ground reports indicate that they plan to join the actions when their work week begins today (September 12).

But the South does not stand alone. More than 400 prisoners at Kinross Correctional Facility, Michigan, held a protest on the prison yard and caused property damage to the prison, prompting officials to transfer 150 of them to other facilities. Clallam Bay Correctional Center in Washington State is also said to be on lockdown after actions there.

Many women prisoners are involved: Those held at Central California Women’s Prison, a women’s prison in Nebraska, at Lincoln (Nebraska) Correctional Center, a women’s prison in Kansas, and at Merced Jail in California have either refused to work, are on hunger strike, and/or have led uprisings in their facilities, I’m told.

It’s significant that so much of the resistance is focused on women’s facilities (although this certainly isn’t without precedent: The 1974 Bedford Hills and 1975 North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women uprisings are two of the most significant events in US prison history). Women, especially young women of color, make up the fastest-growing corrections population, at least in local jails. And the history of resistance in US women’s prisons continues to rapidly unfold, even if the media pays it little attention.

The actions haven’t been limited to jails and prisons, either. Friends, family, and supporters of incarcerated people took to the streets across the country to express solidarity and support for the strikes. Atlanta, Arizona, Portland, Lucasville (Ohio), Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, St. Louis, New York, Providence, Richmond, Durham, Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, and plenty of other large and small US cities have seen protestors, sometimes numbering into the hundreds, take to the streets or picket prisons.

In Atlanta, where I live, about 50 people disrupted business Friday at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Aramark—companies that have been accused of exploiting barely compensated incarcerated labor—during street protests. According to witnesses, police responded by trying to run over protesters and dousing protesters, bystanders, and one another with pepper spray.

Posted in LAPD | No Comments »

Questions Raised by Video Showing Body Being Moved in LAPD Shooting

September 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

In February Los Angeles Police officers shot and killed a Boyle Heights
sixteen-year-old named Jose Mendez. According to the police, was driving a stolen car and carrying a sawed off shotgun.

The Los Angeles Times reported back in February that, according to Chief Charlie Beck, a description of the stolen car had been broadcast to LAPD officers. Several hours later, cops from the Hollenbeck station spotted the stolen vehicle and began following the car and its driver. The car pulled over and sixteen-year-old Mendez allegedly armed himself with a sawed off shotgun.

In a later account, an LAPD spokesperson said that Jose Mendez pointed the gun at one of the police officers, at which point police shot the sixteen-year-old multiple times and he died at the scene.

Now LA Weekly reporter Jason McGahan has broken the news about a surveilance video that has surfaced showing officers dragging Mendez’ body immediately after the shooting, from the private driveway where he was shot, down the sidewalk a distance of approximately 30 feet, for reasons that are unclear.

Attorney Arnoldo Casillas, who is representing Jose Mendez family in a civil suit, shared the video with the Weekly on the condition that they agreed not to publish the video itself online. But the publication was allowed to excerpt screen shots for publication

Here’s a clip from the Weekly’s story:

The video in question — which Mendez’s parents, Juan and Josefina Mendez, discovered the day after the shooting while visiting the scene with Casillas — was filmed by a security camera from a nearby apartment complex. Looking north to an area on the downhill slope of East Sixth Street, the video captures the black Honda Mendez was driving coming to a stop in a residential driveway. Immediately, a patrol car pulls in behind it. The glare from the cruiser’s headlights obstructs the camera’s view of the shooting, but in the last clear sequence prior to the shooting, at 10:42 p.m. on the video timestamp, two officers can be seen rapidly exiting the patrol car, their guns drawn and pointed.

The officers quickly climb out of the patrol car and appear to point their weapons toward the vehicle with Mendez still at the wheel. One officer circles around to the right of the parked Honda, and the other to the left. The police car’s lights obscure the rest of the incident from view.

Four and a half minutes later, at 10:46 p.m according to the video timestamp, two police officers are shown dragging Mendez’s body by the shoulders down East Sixth Street and laying him face-down on the sidewalk, about 30 feet away from the driveway where the traffic stop was conducted and the shooting had taken place moments before.

After officers dragged Mendez’ body, the video then shows one officer fishing what appears to be a cell phone out of the boy’s pocket, after which time, another officer handcuffs him. More officers arrive. Mendez does not move, nor does anyone appear to check his condition.

So, what if anything does this video mean? The Weekly talked to several experts to whom they showed the video. These experts gave various circumstances that could necessitate the moving of a body at the scene of such an incident. However, none of those circumstances seemed to be in evidence after the Mendez shooting.

One a former prosecutor, a deputy district attorney for Riverside County named Ambrosio Rodriguez, told McGahan, “I was in many officer-involved shootings, when [the victim or victims] were dead, and they’re treated like a homicide scene. There’s lots of little differences, but you cannot move a body. That’s tampering with evidence. You can’t do that…”

LAPD officials have not yet commented on the video.

Read the rest of the Weekly’s story here.

Photo by Scott L, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in LAPD | 15 Comments »

Body Cams for LAPD…SCOTUS Decision on Evidence From Illegal Police Stops…and Bills

June 23rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, the LA City Council approved a nearly $60 million plan to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with body-worn cameras.

The city will enter into a five-year agreement with Taser International Inc. to the tune of $31.2 million in equipment (including 4,400 cameras) and services. Another $23.7 million will go to Sprint for phones and data, and 4.3 million will be earmarked for what the Public Safety Committee Report designates as “infrastructure.” (The LAPD will also use a $1 million grant from the US Department of Justice, $3.1 million in unspent fiscal year 2015-2016 program funding, and $7 million from the 2016-2017 adopted budget.)

Once the body cams are implemented, the LAPD will be the largest department in the nation to attach cameras to its officers. About 860 officers are already wearing cameras because of an earlier pilot program.

Four times per year, the LAPD will also be required to report back on the status of camera implementation, along with a cost-benefit analysis.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the body cam plan. Here’s a clip:

Originally, L.A. Mayor Garcetti had promised to have cameras on LAPD officers by the end of the year to improve accountability by both police and citizens, and provide evidence in criminal trials. City council members, however, balked at the price tag and approval was delayed six months.

A study commissioned by the council and unveiled Tuesday predicted eventual cost savings from body cameras. Justice and Security Strategies, the consultant commissioned for the report, said LAPD can expect to pay less in litigation costs after body cameras roll out, since they could absolve officers accused of misconduct, and deter use of force by officers.

The plan includes a $31 million contract with Taser International, which will supply the cameras, uploading equipment and storage. The rest of the money will go to things like extra LAPD staff to review and manage the footage.

Garcetti hailed the decision.

“Today’s action by the City Council is an investment in my vision of a Los Angeles Police Department that leads in transparency and accountability — values that protect officers and everyday Angelenos, and that are fundamental to policing in the 21st century,” Garcetti said in a statement. “This is a historic moment for the LAPD, and I am proud of the leadership shown by everyone who played a part in getting us to this day.”


In a 5-3 decision on Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers can use evidence obtained during illegal stops in courts, if the searches were conducted after the officers found out that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent, arguing that the ruling would disproportionately impact people of color. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong,” she wrote.

In the case, Utah v. Strieff, Salt Lake City narcoticts detective Douglas Fackrell unlawfully stopped Edward Strieff based on an anonymous tip about “narcotics activity.” The check Fackrell ran on Strieff turned up a warrant for a traffic violation. When Fackrell arrested and searched Strieff, he found meth and drug paraphernalia. The justices ruled that the drug evidence does not have to be suppressed, but can be used as evidence in court.

“The officer illegally stopped Strieff and immediately ran a warrant check,” said Sotomayor in her dissent. “The officer’s discovery of a warrant was not some intervening surprise that he could not have anticipated.”

Sotomayor pointed out that according to recent Department of Justice statistics, 16,000 of Ferguson, Missouri’s population of 21,000 had outstanding warrants.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined most of Sotomayor’s dissent, as well as Justice Elena Kagan’s separate dissent.

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak has more on the ruling. Here’s a clip:

The question for the justices was whether the drugs must be suppressed given the unlawful stop or whether they could be used as evidence given the arrest warrant.

“Officer Fackrell was at most negligent,” Justice Thomas wrote, adding that “there is no evidence that Officer Fackrell’s illegal stop reflected flagrantly unlawful police misconduct.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.

In a dissent that cited W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Justice Sotomayor said the court had vastly expanded police power.

“The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.

“If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay,” she continued, “courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.”

Justice Sotomayor added that many people were at risk. Federal and state databases show more than 7.8 million outstanding warrants, she wrote, “the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses.”


AB 2298, a bill to notify people included on California’s gang database, CalGang, passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and has been re-referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The bill passed through the Assembly earlier this month.

People who admit to law enforcement officers that they are gang members or who have gang-related tattoos are added to the database, but associating with known gang members and wearing clothing that might be gang-related also sends people into the CalGang database.

The bill also gives Californians the right to challenge their inclusion in the database, and removes people from the list who have been free of gang-related convictions for at least three years.

Advocates say the vague criteria often have the effect of penalizing people of color for living in the wrong neighborhood.


On Monday California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her support of a bill that would ensure that eligible inmates with felony convictions keep their right to vote while in jail (but not prison), as well as while under county supervision (but not parole).

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right,” AG Harris said.

And on Tuesday, Harris endorsed a bill to place significant limits on when, why, and for how long California kids can be locked in solitary. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would block guards from using isolation as a punishment, for convenience’s sake, or as a way to coerce kids, and would limit “room confinement” to four hours. Confinement would only become an option after other, less restrictive options had been exhausted (except when using those alternatives would put kids or staff in danger).

“Subjecting young people to prolonged periods of isolated confinement is cruel, inhumane and counterproductive to rehabilitation,” Harris said. “This unnecessary and punitive practice undermines the goal of helping this vulnerable young population become healthy and productive members of our society.”

Harris endorsed two other criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing recidivism. The first, AB 1597, by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey), would allow inmates who haven’t been sentenced yet to participate in rehabilitative programs and earn good time credits toward a future sentence. The inmates’ use of these tools would not be admissible as evidence of their guilt.

The second bill, SB 1157 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would ensure that local detention facilities using video visitation would also allow a number of in-person visits for inmates, as well.

Posted in LAPD | 11 Comments »

CORRECTED: IG Review Reveals LAPD Officers’ Cell Block Checks Violate Policy

June 7th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

When conducting cell block checks at the Los Angeles Police Department-run Metropolitan Detention Center (MCD), LAPD officers acted outside of department policy and state regulations 82.3% of the time, according to an investigation by LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante.

MCD, the LAPD’s busiest jail, was assigned approximately 121 detention officers and 51 police officers and processed more than 28,000 inmates. In conducting the review, the IG’s office went through 264 hours of footage from jail cameras, analyzing 198 cell block checks.

During 26 of the non-compliant checks, officers did not inspect the entire floor after entering a cell block. During the other 137 problematic checks, officers did not even go into the cell blocks, and frequently miscounted inmates.

LA Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman said the failure rate is indicative of “systemic failure,” the LA Times reports. Commission President Matt Johnson pointed out that after the IG illuminated these issues, the LAPD “immediately worked with the inspector general to fix them.”

Two weeks ago, the Police Commission reviewed video of a death—caused by suffocation and epilepsy—at the department’s Pacific Jail. The revelation that jail logs listed inaccurate inmate welfare check times when cross-referenced with video of the man’s death, brought on an internal investigation.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly estimated MCD’s jail population at more than 28,000. We meant to say that MCD processed more than 28,000 inmates in 2015.

Posted in LAPD | 5 Comments »

SFPD Chief Ousted, LAPD Union Sues Over Discipline Practices, Prison Admissions up Nationwide, and Blocking Sunshine in Child Death Records

May 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Thursday, just a few short hours after San Francisco police officers shot and killed a woman during an arrest, SF Mayor Ed Lee announced the removal of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr.

“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough—not for me, not for Greg, said Mayor Lee in a statement Thursday. “That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation.”

The move follows months of protests over other controversial police shootings along with racist (and homophobic) text messages sent between officers. And then there has been the ongoing feud between Suhr and SF District Attorney George Gascón.

Last week, four out of eleven San Francisco Supervisors called for SF Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired.

Earlier this month, five San Francisco protesters went on a hunger strike, calling for Suhr’s resignation, and decrying police brutality and the fatal shootings of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, and other San Francisco residents of color.

Before Thursday’s fatal shooting of a reportedly unarmed 27-year-old black woman, officers were trying to remove from a stolen car, Mayor Lee said he was not planning on firing Suhr.

“I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Lee said. “Today I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

Citing the importance of improving trust between the department and community, Lee named 26-year department veteran Toney Chaplin as acting Chief of Police. “He’s established a record of commitment to the City’s diverse communities, serving at Mission and Taraval Stations, in the Gang Task Force, and running the Homicide division,” Lee said. “Toney has most recently helped establish our new Professional Standards and Principled Policing bureau, the arm of the department that focuses on accountability and transparency.”


The Los Angeles Police Protective League-–the LAPD rank and file union—has filed a 57-page federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the LAPD, and Chief Charlie Beck over the department’s discipline process.

The LAPPL says Chief Beck has had a “corrupt influence” over the three-member discipline panel—the Board of Rights—that handles the more serious discipline cases in which officers may be fired or given a long-term suspension. The police union’s lawsuit accuses Beck of pressuring the board members to find officers guilty.

Chief Beck appeared on KNX 1070, and argued that in over half of the Board of Rights discipline hearings, the panel did not follow his discipline recommendations to fire officers.

“In 26 of those 184 cases, the board found the officers not guilty. And in 67 of them, they found them guilty, but then applied a penalty that’s less than firing,” Beck said. “…If that’s a system that I’m corrupting, then I’m not doing a very good job of it.”

Beck continued, telling KNX he felt the lawsuit was a personal attack.

The lawsuit also calls for the Board of Rights—which is currently comprised of two LAPD officials and one civilian—to change to an all-civilian board. Having two high-ranking officials on the board is a violation of officers’ 14th Amendment right to due process, according to the lawsuit, because the officials “owe their rank to the chief.”

The LA Times’ James Queally and Kate Mather have more on the lawsuit and the issues it raises. Here’s a clip:

The union rejected that it was seeking more favorable outcomes by having more civilians on the boards. Craig Lally, the union president, said the disciplinary statistics raised by Beck were invalid because many officers reach settlements with the board, pleading guilty to lesser misconduct charges in fear that the command officers will fire them at Beck’s behest.

Lally alleged that Beck often will urge Board of Rights members to terminate officers involved in high-profile misconduct cases as a way of placating the public following controversial incidents.

He pointed to the firing of former LAPD Det. Frank Lyga, who was caught on tape making racially charged remarks about a prominent black civil rights attorney and insulting comments about a female LAPD captain. Lyga, who is white, also made insensitive comments about a black officer, Kevin Gaines, whom he fatally shot during a 1997 traffic dispute. Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics detail when he became involved in the argument with Gaines, who was off duty. Neither knew the other was a police officer.

Lally said that Lyga should not have been fired, but argued that his case was one of several in which Beck pushed for a termination in order to gain a public relations victory.

“They just think it’s easier for them to terminate the officer and basically wash their hands of it. … They can say that they’ve done something to fix the problem,” Lally said.

During a news conference, Lally said the union had nearly reached an agreement with the mayor and city attorney’s office this month to alter the disciplinary process and replace uniformed Board of Rights members with civilians.

But the deal fell apart, according to Lally, who said the city attorney’s office suggested the proposed changes might not be legal but did not explain why when asked by the union.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said the union was never in negotiations with his office. The union spoke with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, which may have requested advice from the city attorney, Wilcox said.

“While I cannot discuss advice we provided, L.A. voters adopted a clear and legally-sound charter provision prescribing the composition of the LAPD Board of Rights,” Wilcox said in an email. “Of course, policy leaders and voters could amend the charter to alter that provision as early as November.”


Looking at national incarceration data, criminologist John Pfaff found that if you exclude California—which has significantly reduced its prison population via a federal court order—incarceration rates are actually rising, not declining.

Pfaff found that while sentences have gotten shorter, and the conversation about ending mass incarceration has grown louder, there were actually more people admitted into prison in 2014 than in 2010. Yes, overall prison population numbers dropped by 1.9% during that time frame, but that seems to have overshadowed the fact that more people were sent to prison—an increase of about 6,225 in state prison admissions (or 1.2%), excluding California.

“…Somehow this has completely fallen thru the cracks of our reform discussion. MORE ppl harmed by prison, but LESS visibly so,” Pfaff wrote in a series of tweets about his findings.

Pfaff says the data he compared “only emphasizes again how vitally important regulating prosecutors is, and how shocking it is that NO ONE is doing this.”

Vox’s German Lopez has more on the data. Here’s a clip:

…although fewer people are in prison on any given day, more people are still dealing with the terrible consequences of getting caught up in the justice system, particularly a criminal record that makes it harder to get a job, vote, get housing, and much more.

What’s worse, admissions into prison seem to be going up even as the country goes through a nationwide crime drop — and the research shows that mass incarceration has only played a small role, if any, in the crime drop over the past several years.

The research, drop in crime, and heavy financial and social costs of mass incarceration have pushed political leaders and activists from both parties to call for criminal justice reform. But Pfaff’s analysis shows that it’s not enough, as most reform has only focused on shortening prison sentences. The actors in the criminal justice system — especially prosecutors — also need to start sending fewer people to prison, especially for crimes that don’t warrant such a serious punishment. And if they aren’t willing to do it, maybe lawmakers and the public should take steps to force them to be less aggressive.


A “trailer bill” attached to the latest California budget proposal would close off public access to records regarding the deaths of children involved in the child welfare system.

The bill, introduced by the California Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne would ease deadlines for releasing the child death records and keep social workers’ identities secret in such cases. Information on the family’s history within the child welfare system would be limited, and info provided by witnesses would be removed from the record.

A similar bill was tacked onto the May budget revision last year, too. By attaching the measure as a budget “trailer bill” the measure can skip review in committees and take a short cup to the vote.

According to state officials, the bill would protect the children and adults in the family who were not responsible for the death. Listening to proponents and opponents debate the issue at a hearing, State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said “This is an item that has…impassioned support and heated opposition. Clearly it is not cooked enough.”

A vote on the bill is expected within the week.

The LA Times’ Garrett Therolf has more on the trailer bill. Here’s a clip:

Since the state implemented the law to increase transparency in 2008, reporters have accessed social worker case notes and other files that revealed inadequacies in the state’s child welfare system, including instances of social workers disregarding policies and allowing children to remain in conditions that proved fatal.

In response to news stories based on those reports, state and county officials implemented a battery of child protection reforms that child welfare advocates credit with reducing the number of children who die because of abuse and neglect.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles County prosecutors filed criminal charges against four social workers who handled the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in the months before he was tortured and killed. The case was first reported in The Times based on information that included documents released through the disclosure law.

The social workers union has staged protests against the criminal charges and worked with the administration to craft the bill that would reduce public scrutiny of the case files for child fatalities. The state child welfare directors association also supports the administration’s bill.

The bill currently under consideration would relax deadlines for the release of records and keep the names of social workers secret. It would deny the public access to original case notes, instead providing abbreviated summaries of how the government attempted to protect vulnerable children.

Posted in LAPD | 4 Comments »

LAPD Commission Sez Venice Shooting Was Unjustified, a Bill to Bar For-Profit Immigrant Detention Contracts, and Pt. Two of MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge

April 14th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission sided with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, unanimously deciding that LAPD officer Clifford Proctor’s fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, was an unjustified use of deadly force.

Video and other evidence from the May 2015 shooting led police investigators to determine that during an altercation, Proctor shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while Glenn was lying on his stomach on the ground. Proctor said he believed Glenn was trying to take his partner’s gun, but the video evidence did not show Glenn’s hand to be on or near the holster, nor did Proctor’s partner do anything to indicate Glenn was going after his gun, according to the report.

In January, Chief Beck recommended that the LA County District Attorney’s Office charge Proctor in the death of Glenn. It was the first time the chief had recommended criminal charges for a fatal on-duty shooting.

In 2015, in LA, cops shot at civilians 48 times, hitting their target 37 times, and killing 22 total. In a story we crossposted with The Crime Report on Wednesday, Joe Domanick explains and gives context to the LA Police Commission’s revised use-of-force policies, which prioritize “de-escalation” techniques during confrontations to reduce the number of unarmed civilians shot by officers. (Domanick is the West Coast Bureau Chief of the Crime Report and author of Blue: the LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.)

The LA Times’ Kate Mather has more on the commission’s decision regarding the Venice shooting. Here’s a clip:

The decision capped an 11-month review of Glenn’s death, one of several shootings by LAPD officers last year that fueled criticism of police and how officers use force, particularly against African Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.

The ruling also renewed pressure on L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against Proctor. This year, Beck said he had urged Lacey to charge Proctor. It was the first time as chief that Beck has called for charges against one of his officers in a fatal on-duty shooting.

Such prosecutions are rare in L.A. County, where the district attorney’s office hasn’t charged a law enforcement officer in an on-duty shooting in 15 years. An office spokeswoman said the case was still being reviewed.

Within hours of the Police Commission’s decision, local activists again called for Lacey to prosecute Proctor. Najee Ali said the ruling, coupled with Beck’s earlier recommendation, was further proof that the district attorney needed to act.

“This is a true litmus test for Lacey,” he said.

Beck said the commission’s decision “certainly supports” what he told the district attorney.

“I find many times that shootings are out of policy and they don’t reflect criminal charges,” he said. “But that’s not the case in this one.”


A new California bill sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would block cities and counties from contracting with controversial for-profit prison companies running immigrant detention centers.

“Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering,” Lara said. “This critical first-in-the-nation legislation would make the currently unenforceable national immigration standards the law of the land in the golden state.”

Four municipalities, including cash-strapped Adelanto, are contracting with private detention centers and would be affected by the bill.

The small city of Adelanto in San Bernardino County contracts with the scandal-plagued GEO Group, which runs a city jail and the Adelanto Detention Facility, where undocumented immigrants are held. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays Adelanto about $4 million a month to hold around 1,200 immigrants in its detention center. (All-told, ICE holds 62% of its detainees in for-profit detention centers.)

City Councilman John Woodard says a fourth of the city’s income comes from its contracts with the private prison group.

GEO Group, the second largest for-profit prison operator, is often accused of medical neglect and abuse, and at Adelanto and other facilities, enforces lock-up quotas—which trigger financial penalties for empty jail and prison beds.

The bill would also require the immigrant detention facilities to comply with (currently optional) federal standards, and would make it easier for immigrants to take legal action against the private prisons for rights violations.

KPCC’s Leslie Berestein Rojas has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

With the Adelanto facility’s daily population averaging roughly 1,200 and based on the per-diem rate, ICE pays up to about $4 million a month — and more if the detention center is filled to its 1,940-detainee capacity.

But a bill sponsored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) could put an end to Adelanto’s immigrant detention contract.

“For far too long, our immigration system has promoted profits over people,” Lara told KPCC. “The goal is to prohibit these for-profit companies from profiting off the backs of immigrants.”

Cities like Adelanto depend on detention space revenue. In Adelanto, which nearly went bankrupt last year, City Council member John “Bug” Woodard, a self-described Tea Party Republican, said the GEO contracts are vital to the city’s economy.

“I think a good 25 percent of our income comes from those jailhouses,” Woodard said. “GEO is an important part of this community, and any idiot up in Sacramento that would like us not to do business with them, they’ve got their heads where the sun don’t shine.”


On Wednesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced just under $25 million in funding for 11 jurisdictions nationwide to move to the second round of the foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, which aims to “create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.”

The MacArthur Foundation whittled down 11 jurisdictions from an original group of 20 selected in 2015 to be mentored by experts as they created plans to reform their local jail systems.

The 11 jurisdictions are:

- Charleston County, SC
- Harris County, TX
- Lucas County, OH
- Milwaukee County, WI
- New Orleans, LA
- New York City, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pima County, AZ
- Spokane County, WA
- State of Connecticut
- St. Louis County, MO

Los Angeles County was one of original 20 jurisdictions chosen last year, but did not make it to the second round of full mentoring and funding.

Los Angeles and the other eight remaining counties will receive $150,000 grants, as well as technical assistance from experts, to keep up their reform efforts as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network.

Posted in LAPD, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Can “De-Escalation” Training Help the LAPD Shoot Fewer People? by Joe Domanick

April 13th, 2016 by witnessla

The LAPD’s New Plan to Shoot Fewer People

by Joe Domanick

“Every second counts, and hesitation will kill you,” Jamie McBride told the Los Angeles Police Commission last month.

McBride, a director of the Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Police Department’s rank-and-file union, was testifying at a hearing called to discuss the commission’s proposal to establish new guidelines for officers’ use of force—and he didn’t mince words.

The guidelines, he said “will get officers killed, plain and simple.”

The union director went on to deliver a chilling warning to the five civilians who sit on the commission: “Make no mistake, if an officer is killed as a result …. [his] blood will be on your hands.”

McBride’s comments weren’t unexpected. They reflected the traditional distrust of cops for rules set by outsiders that limit officers’ ability to maneuver in fast-moving and often dangerous situations.

But McBride’s testimony was overshadowed by a just-released report on officer-involved-shootings in Los Angeles during 2015. The commission, which sets Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) policy, could hardly avoid the alarming numbers spelled out in the report: 48 officer-involved shootings, 37 of which hit suspects, 22 of them fatally.

The eleven that hit no one were not warning shots: cops had simply missed their target.

It’s not just LA’s problem of course.

Since 2014, caught-on-camera police killings have fueled a national movement for change, which only seems to grow stronger each month.

But no one listening to McBride that day could have avoided a stark comparison with some other big-city police departments. In Chicago, with a population that’s somewhat smaller than that of LA, and where gun violence seems to set new records each year, officers shot 22 people in 2015, killing eight. In New York, with roughly three times as many police officers and a population about twice as large as LA’s, officers shot 32 people last year, nine fatally.

The proposal by LA’s Police Commission, which so angered McBride, was far from radical. It focused on training cops to avoid the kinds of confrontations that lead to officers shooting unarmed civilians—-many of whom, as critics point out, are stopped on the flimsiest of pretexts.

The strategy is called “de-escalation.”

The force behind LA’s new strategy is commission president Matthew Johnson, who was named to the post only last year. Johnson, whose day job is managing partner of an entertainment law firm of 30 attorneys, is an African-American native of New Jersey. A graduate of New York University Law School, he moved to LA “literally three weeks,” as he put it, after the 1992 LA riots.

In formulating the strategy, Johnson took a lawyer’s careful approach. He first ordered a ten-year review of LAPD shootings. At the same time, the review examined a wide range of training policies that guide officer behavior and ultimately influence tactics, including procedures for handling the mentally ill, as well as alternatives to using deadly-force weapons.

Based on that review, the commission concluded that the department’s previous approach, which called on officers to demonstrate “a reverence for human life,” was far too vague. Instead, it called for a new approach that was not just aimed at minimizing shootings, but would train and reward officers who used de-escalation tactics to avoid them—and hold accountable cops who did not.

In its revised policy guidelines, the commission said that, henceforth, shooting a suspect would be considered “in-policy” only if it occurred as a last resort.

A key component of the stricter accountability called for in the guidelines was already in place. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the commission had instituted a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras, and that every patrol car be equipped with a camera.

Outside critics were already unhappy with some elements of the camera policy, namely providing the right to review any use-of-force tapes before an officer made a sworn shooting statement, thus allowing the officer to present his account in the best possible light, given the hard evidence represented by the video recordings.

Nevertheless, the support of Beck, and the grudging acceptance of the union for the cameras, gave the commission what it considered a crucial new oversight tool in adjudicating use-of-force incidents.

“The cameras,” Johnson said in a conversation with me, “have made a huge difference [in determining accountability.] At the end of the day the video is what the video is. You can only explain so much, but the video is going to stand on its own.”

Beck and the commission had already begun reviewing officer-involved shootings to consider not just whether the shooting was in or out-of-policy, but whether the tactics leading up to the shooting were appropriate. So some elements of the revised guidelines weren’t new.

What is different, however, is that, as a result of the commission’s decision, de-escalation will be written into official policy, mandating that officers be trained in de-escalation techniques that they must use in their interactions with citizens.

Failure to do so will now be cause to declare a shooting “out-of-policy,” even if the officer, because of his failure, had placed himself in a position where he felt he had to fire his weapon to protect himself. An out-of-policy finding has become a serious matter in the LAPD, one that can result in anything from required retraining, to a reprimand, loss of promotion, or firing.

Some of the de-escalation training is also already in place. Shooting scenarios are now performed with actors playing suspects. The scenarios graphically demonstrate how to avoid the need to shoot, focusing on when a trainee might have used de-escalation but didn’t.

“They learn how the right way of talking to a suspect, and the right display of empathy and body language [that] can de-escalate a situation,” said Beck.

Indeed, despite the union’s objections, some experts outside the LAPD do believe a well-executed de-escalation training regime can make officers—and the public—safer.

According to Michael Gennaco, who oversaw reform efforts for the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department, officers can slow down an escalating situation by taking cover, and calling for back-up or specialized units. They can also try to calm individuals, being careful not to get so close to a suspect that a mere gesture might cause the officer to lose his or her cool.

Clearly, as Gennaco says, “Some shootings are unavoidable; you’ll never get to zero.”

But he adds, “You can strive to get the number as low as possible, and avoid the ‘lawful but awful’ kinds of deadly force incidents that we have seen too many times.”

But is following de-escalation policy sufficient by itself?

Training in avoiding interactions that can quickly spin out of control is obviously critical—-but only if it’s built into community policing strategy. Successful police-citizen interaction ultimately has to be based on efforts to gain the acceptance and respect of the public. De-escalation of volatile incidents is only a first step.

Whether they fall “in” or “out” of the new policy guidelines, police shootings will continue to shock the public conscience unless law enforcement departments establish a clear goal of establishing legitimacy in the communities they serve.

Near the end of my interview with Matt Johnson, I asked him how the LA Police Commission would monitor compliance with the new policy, which is scheduled to be implemented within the next 30 days.

“We have an inspector general with a staff of 40 auditors and investigators who will insure the policy is complied with,” he said.

“And if this policy doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”

Joe Domanick is West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report. This column is being published in partnership with VICE and The Crime Report. Joe welcomes comments from readers.

Photo by Chris Yarzeb courtesy of Creative Commons

Posted in LAPD | 9 Comments »

LAPD Commission Adopts New Use-of-Force Policy…Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Reform Efforts…and Criminalized Black Girls

March 16th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved 12 recommendations from the Inspector General for revising the LAPD’s deadly use-of-force policies to prioritize de-escalation tactics.

Under the revisions officers attempts at de-escalation in a violent situation will be taken into consideration when determining the reasonableness of a particular use of force.

Deadly force, the IG’s report says, should only be used when non-lethal alternatives have been exhausted. And before engaging with mentally ill and homeless populations on Skid Row, all officers assigned to the Resources Enhancement Services and Enforcement Team will complete specialized training.

Some of the recommendations will likely be amended as LAPD officials work through them with the IG and commission.

KPCC’s Ashley Bailey has more on the changes and reactions from law enforcement, advocates, and criminal justice experts. Here’s a clip:

“Changes to policy are not done lightly or often so the intention is to build something that will work not just for today, but going forward,” said Police Commission President Matt Johnson at Tuesday’s meeting.

Johnson, along with Commissioner Robert Saltzman authored the recommendations, which are a skeleton framework for policy changes the commission, LAPD officials, and the Inspector General will hash out in the coming weeks.

Commissioners indicated that three of the most controversial recommendations will be amended as those talks go on. Those items deal with determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable, whether they used deadly force only as a last option, and limiting the use of rifles and slug ammunition.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he supported revisiting the use-of-force policy, but cautioned against creating policies that might put police officers at risk.

“I understand what the commission wants to do–they want to emphasize some of the things that the police department is doing to minimize use of force,” Beck said. “And one of those things is deescalation.”

“We’re not asking (officers) to endanger their lives, but if these strategies are implemented correctly, it should keep both our officers and the community safer,” Johnson said.


On Tuesday, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith proposed a package of important reforms to reduce the use of excessive force within county jails and improve mental health care for inmates.

The 13 reforms include appointing an inspector general, creating a permanent civilian oversight commission, boosting mental health training for guards, bolstering education programs for inmates, and beefing up background checks and minimum qualifications for prospective guards.

A recent report on conditions within Santa Clara County jails found numerous allegations of excessive force, delayed medical and mental health care, a broken grievance-reporting system, unchecked jail personnel misconduct, and other systemic problems. The report was commissioned by a blue ribbon panel formed after three guards were charged with the murder of a mentally ill inmate, Michael Tyree.

Sheriff Smith even installed an interim camera system for the jails after hearing that implementing new security cameras would cost $20 million and take until 2018. Smith took a trip to Costco, spending $761.24 on 12 security cameras to test in the Main Jail.

San Jose Mercury News’ Tracey Kaplan has the story. Here’s a clip:

In her jail reform plan, Smith lays out 13 goals, including significantly beefing up training to help guards cope with an increasingly mentally ill population of more serious offenders, improving inmate education programs, and increasing minimum qualifications and background checks for prospective guards. For instance, correctional deputies currently only have to have the equivalent of a high school diploma; Smith now wants to require they have some combination of college course work and/or experience in criminal justice work or mental health. She also wants to upgrade background checks on applicants, including by having them take two polygraph tests instead of one.

Only one other major urban county in California – Los Angeles County — has an inspector general and citizens commission to supervise the jails. An inspector general monitors custody operations and facilities, including medical and mental health care; issues reports, including on use of force; and makes recommendations for improvement.

“Before the death of Michael Tyree there were many reforms and initiatives being worked on to improve custody operations,” Smith said. “Michael’s unfortunate death accelerated these efforts.”

Reaction to Smith’s plan Tuesday was mixed. The head of Santa Clara County’s jail-improvement commission and one of the attorneys who filed the class-action suit against the jails both noted that Smith was being reactive, not proactive, but praised her for quickly moving ahead. Many of the sheriff’s recommendations echo what the commission has been urging, including support for an independent inspector general. The group’s formal recommendations are expected to come out in April.

“These are things every correctional system should be doing,” said attorney Kelly Knapp of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office. “But she’s headed in the right direction sooner than most, unlike many institutions that need to lose a court battle to make changes.”


Black girls frequently receive more severe punishments than white girls for the same offenses at school, despite not being any more likely to act out than their white counterparts, according to a 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

According to Dept. of Education data, black girls make up just 17% of enrolled female students, but receive 31% of girls’ referrals to law enforcement, and comprise 43% of school arrests of all female students.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Melinda Anderson, author and co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute Monique Morris discusses her new book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, the racial and gender bias fueling the pushout, the victimization behind the “delinquency,” and the “healing power of the narrative.” Here’s a clip:

Melinda D. Anderson: The shocking statistics you cite in the opening chapter—on poverty, dropouts, incarceration, and homicide—paint a chilling picture of the plight of black girls and women today. Can you briefly discuss some of the complex dynamics, the social and economic factors, triggering this situation?

Monique W. Morris: The dynamics here are, indeed, complex. I believe it’s important for us to understand that the negative socioeconomic conditions for black women and girls are related to how race, gender, class, sexual identity, ability, and other identities interact with each other to undermine equal access to opportunity. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality,” which captures this idea. Black women and girls must often navigate through a landscape that reinforces multidimensional stereotypes and debilitating narratives that negatively impact how black femininity is understood. Implicit racial and gender biases may also inform how we read the behaviors and actions of black girls and women, and how all of this comes together to guide whether black girls are safe in their communities and whether they have access to quality employment, food, housing, and education.

Anderson: You write that black girls are frequently marginalized and criminalized by institutions that should be safeguarding their well-being. Talk about some of the ways that institutional racism, classism, and sexism overlap to portray black girls as “delinquent,” and in the process impede their hopes and aspirations?

Morris: The book talks about educational institutions as “structures of dominance” that can either reinforce negative outcomes and ghettoize opportunity or actively disrupt conditions that render black girls vulnerable to criminalization. Black girls are 16 percent of girls in schools, but 42 percent of girls receiving corporal punishment, 42 percent of girls expelled with or without educational services, 45 percent of girls with at least one out-of-school suspension, 31 percent of girls referred to law enforcement, and 34 percent of girls arrested on campus. Too often, when people read these statistics, they ask, “What did these girls do?” when often, it’s not about what they did, but rather, the culture of discipline and punishment that leaves little room for error when one is black and female.

Black girls describe being labeled and suspended for being “disruptive” or “defiant” if they ask questions or otherwise engage in activities that adults consider affronts to their authority. Across the country, we see black girls being placed in handcuffs for having tantrums in kindergarten classrooms, thrown out of class for asking questions, sent home from school for arriving in shorts on a hot day, labeled as “truant” if they are being commercially sexually exploited, and labeled as “defiant” if they speak up in the face of what they [identify] to be injustice. We also see black girls criminalized (arrested on campus or referred to law enforcement) instead of engaged as children and teens whose mistakes could be addressed through non-punitive restorative approaches.

For girls, education is a critical protective factor against involvement with the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Our first priority should be keeping them in schools, not finding new ways to render them “delinquent.”

Posted in LAPD | 2 Comments »

Rodney King Roundup – 25 Years Later

March 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the night LAPD officers beat Rodney King, fracturing his bones in 59 places and nearly killing him.

In an interview with the Marshall Project’s Bill Keller, Jill Leovy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, talks about what we have learned since the King beating and the LA riots.

Leovy discusses black-on-black violence and why law enforcement must give up the “broken windows” style of policing, the targeting specific geographic areas, and stop-and-search practices, and instead focus on “ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes.” The majority of homicides of black men across the nation go unsolved. Leovy calls for diligent and efficient investigations of violent crime in black communities, and rigorous prosecution on behalf of victims.

“The real problem is that formal justice is materially lacking among populations that suffer high rates of violence,” says Leovy. “It’s missing, and it must be supplied.” And “dialogue,” “improved relations” between cops and communities of color, and youth programs won’t solve that underlying problem, she says. Here are some clips:

The unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County posted solve rates for homicide in the thirty-percent range through some of the most violent periods of the eighties and nineties. This translates to thousands of killers operating with impunity over decades in America’s poorest urban enclaves – dozens per square mile in South Los Angeles over just a few years. And that’s just a glimpse of the uncharted depths of the impunity problem, a statistical dark zone, where no good information exists on the frequency of non-lethal crimes, assaults and threats. The resulting lawlessness is a cruel form of deprivation afflicting tens of thousands of mostly poor, minority residents of America’s inner-cities, who get roughed up, robbed and raped with appalling frequency and live in daily fear that their sons might be killed. Its remedy must be to supply official justice, not just engage in “dialogue.” Violence is not a problem for coaches and pastors to solve; the state must do its job.


What is so strange and interesting is that the political back and forth over policing has been so consistent, for so long, with the same durable themes and complaints sounded on both sides, not just since Rodney King and the millions of dollars spent on police reforms after the L.A. riots, but since long before, back to the 1960s, even the thirties and forties. Much has changed and yet nothing has. We are chasing each other around a box.

Self-styled progressives, especially, often talk as if legitimacy-building were merely a matter of creating “improved relations” between police officers and minority residents of urban neighborhoods. If police were just nicer, more sensitive, had a better understanding of civilians, or vice versa, things would improve. This is as hollow, in its way, as conservative talk of self-generated cultural and moral renewal in black neighborhoods. Legitimacy will not be built solely of community meetings, youth programs, skillful official propaganda, or artful expressions of empathy. They may have value, but as a cure for lawlessness I think they miss the core point, and in some cases risk deputizing civilians to assume conflict-resolution functions that rightly belong to the state. The state’s job is to intervene in conflicts – yes, even between people of the same color – and it must do so unequivocally and consistently.

So, police need to annoy and alienate fewer non-offenders, and arrest more serious, violent offenders. Pull back from broken-windows-style saturation, targeting patches of geography, and stop-and-search tactics, and concentrate on ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes. Broken windows sprang from the premise that police were too focused on violence at the expense of quality-of-life crimes. But the premise is based on error. American criminal justice has never been very effective at investigating and prosecuting violence, especially in black communities; the reported statistics that claim otherwise are flawed. Violent crime in America today, as in generations past, begs for more systematically thorough and effective investigation, and clean, vigorous prosecution. A mother who grieves for a son lost to an unsolved homicide should not go years without hearing from police about new investigative efforts. A witness who testifies in spite of threats should not be abandoned to deal alone with the long-term consequences. Homicide units in high-crime areas should be solving nearly all murders, not half or less. The system will build legitimacy through its constitutionally constrained yet vigorous, response to people who are hurt, violated and bereaved by violence. The criminal justice system must deliver.

I’m not arguing for a hammer. Tensions between police power and civil liberties are real and involve high stakes; their resolution need not tilt toward law-enforcement. But those who claim the mantle of civil rights should not forget that crime victims — not just defendants — are disproportionately black, and that they suffer unspeakably. My newspaper just reported the killing of a one-year-old baby, Autumn Johnson, in Compton. The mother of this black child said: “I feel like my life is over. I wish it would have been me instead of her.” I don’t assert black crime victims are the only constituency that matters. But they deserve more somber, respectful consideration than they get, and they belong at the center of any serious discussion of police reform. Very often, these victims want and need their attackers to be caught and prosecuted. Omit their names, elide over their sufferings, relegate them to footnotes — as is the case in so many popular criminal-justice critiques today — and you lose the claim to humane advocacy.


Earlier this week, the LAPD released a comprehensive use-of-force report comparing 2015 stats with those of the previous four years. (We posted about the report—here.) According to the numbers, in 2015, LAPD officers used their batons 54 times—21% less often than during the period spanning 2011-2014—and a far cry from the 741 times cops used the weapon in 1990.

The LA Times’ Richard Winton tells the story of how the videotaped Rodney King beating led to fall of the baton as LAPD officers’ weapon of choice. Here’s how it opens:

When the video of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney G. King shocked the world 25 years ago, the baton quickly became a symbol of law enforcement abuse.

The grainy black and white images showed a group of LAPD officers delivering 56 crunching blows to the African American motorist.

Back then, the 2-foot solid piece of aluminum was an essential tool in the police officer’s arsenal. In 1990, Los Angeles police officers used their batons 741 times during force incidents, more than any other weapon.

But the infamous video marked the beginning of the end for the baton’s reign. By 2015, LAPD officers used their batons just 54 times.

The baton offers a dramatic example of how police behavior has changed since the King beating. Authorities said that officers stopped using them for a variety of reasons: Changes in rules and training and the rise of other types of less-lethal weapons, as well as the lasting stigma from those grainy images.

“Back then, it was pulling out a baton and whacking people,” LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Murphy said. “After that video played that night, no one hardly ever used the baton. It was banished. It became a symbol.”


The video of the Rodney King beating may have been the first viral video of police brutality—one that ushered in an era of many much-watched videos of law enforcement misconduct, and a flood of police body-worn (and dash) cams—but others came before it. When the King story originally broke, Time compiled a list of “America’s ugliest home videos,” caught on film by citizens armed with video cameras. Here’s a clip from Time’s updated version of that original story:

Laguna Beach, Calif. A neighbor across the street from an unruly party on June 17, 1990, recorded a harrowing 90 seconds of violence. Although a car partly blocked the view, an officer can be seen on camera swinging his leg in a kick at Kevin Dunbar, 24, a homeless man, while a number of other officers held him after he refused to obey an order to get down on the ground. The man, his face bleeding, was then lifted to his feet and led away to a squad car. A lawsuit against the Laguna Beach police department was filed last month, and the tapes are expected to be important evidence.

Chicago. Max’s Italian Beef Restaurant on the northwest side had a security camera in full view, but the two uniformed police rifling the cash register and prying open the safe last July were too busy to notice. The veteran officers allegedly lifted $7,000. They were indicted and await trial.


The LA Times has a wealth of King-related reading material. In one of the stories we didn’t want you to miss, the Times’ Angel Jennings speaks with Lora King about her father, his legacy, and the human behind the symbol—the dad, the addict, the troubled man still carrying the emotional scars of the beating and the guilt of the riots when he died in 2012. Here are some clips:

Lora King was 7 years old on March 3, 1991, when her dad, on parole and drunk, was infamously beaten in Lakeview Terrace.

Days later, King limped toward his daughter. His face was still swollen. One eye was protruding out of its socket. He talked from the side of his mouth like Popeye.

“I was terrified,” she recalled. “He looked like a monster, but he had a big smile on his face like it was no big deal.”

She had seen George Holliday’s grainy video of baton blows raining down on her father on the evening news. He told her he was fine.

Many years would go by before father and daughter truly reckoned with the emotional scars left by the beating.

“I purposely never brought it up because I always felt that he couldn’t escape it,” said Lora King, 32, an administrative assistant at a Glendale accounting firm. “I tried to stay in a happy place.”

She remembered a father who spent Fridays crisscrossing Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties to pick up his three daughters.

On the long ride, he would map out the plans for the weekend. Sometimes, it was skiing at Mt. Baldy, surfing in Venice, a day at Raging Waters. He also liked to go to places where famous people, including black celebrities and artists, would draw attention away from him.


She stopped looking at her father through the eyes of a child years ago.

In the years after the beating, Rodney King continued to have trouble with the law. In 1993, he crashed into a wall while driving drunk. Two years later, he served 90 days in jail after being charged with a hit-and-run for knocking his wife down with his car. He was hooked on PCP.

Lora King saw a broken man who carried the guilt for the lives lost during the riot that broke out after a jury in Simi Valley cleared the LAPD officers charged in his beating.

He faced real demons, she said.

His frequent run-ins with the law after the beating continued to make him a divisive figure — and a less-than-perfect role model.

Posted in LAPD | 7 Comments »

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